Expert Answers to Your College Application Questions


Norman answered: You have convinced me that your son's dyslexia is indeed a gift. This sounds like an instance where it is OK to disclose and where discussing the issue would underscore positive attributes more than anything else. Just make sure that the dyslexia is merely a springboard for the essay, and not the focus of it (focus on the creativity and things like that). I worked with a student a couple of years ago who had severe dyslexia and an academic profile similar to your son's. His most personal and meaningful story related to successfully working through his dyslexia, so he wrote his essay about it. He did wonderfully in the admissions process and received many offers of admission. I say go for it, if it is his inclination to write about that in his main essay (for the programs you're referring to, he'll have ample space in other essays to talk about his cinematic interests and influences).

Mahala asked: My son, who is very bright, has suffered from severe depression in the last two years. Consequently, his grades have plummeted, as have his SAT and ACT scores. He wants to study biomedical engineering and had his sights set on MIT or Carnegie Mellon. We now know that that is not a possibility due to his poor performance sophomore and junior years. What is the best way to handle this circumstance in his life without scaring off other good schools? I heard you speak of tackling it head on on his applications, but should this be a part of his personal essay? We want to handle this to his best advantage and are very worried about doing the most effective thing.

Norman answered: Mental health issues are very sensitive, and without more information about your son's struggles, it's difficult for me to advise you on this. I recommend that you either seek advice from his school counselor or from an educational consultant who could advise you on this issue privately. You can find a list of educational consultants in your area through the Independent Educational Consultants Association at

Elise from North Carolina asked: I watched you on "GMA" and was excited to get your advice. I have been out of high school for five years now, and after high school, attended a community college for one year. Health problems have prevented me from furthering my education past that. However, my hard work and dedication have paid off, and I have recovered from my disability. I very much want to go back to school for nursing next fall. I want with all my heart to go to UNC's nursing school. How can I make myself desirable after being out of school for so long? In the past year, I have taken an at-home course in medical transcription, because it was what my health allowed. I graduated that certificate program with a 92 average. I was an honor student in high school, and all my grades in college were As. I am frustrated, because I don't feel I should be penalized for being ill, after all, it was out of my control. How can I make this work for me? Please give me some pointers. Thank you so much.

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